This week, the New York Times editorial board strongly condemned the Republican party’s current effort to defund Planned Parenthood by holding the federal budget hostage. The editorial board accused the GOP of “playing brinkmanship with the budget — some are even threatening to shut down the government — in order to score ideological and political points.”
The scathing rebuke was prompted by Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell introducing a spending bill that would defund Planned Parenthood rather than a clean bill extending the current budget. The move was clearly a stunt by McConnell, as he and the rest of his GOP colleagues knew that the bill would not pass over the objections of Democrats in the Senate. The Times points out that Republicans’ true motivation for introducing the bill was more about pandering to the Republican base rather than a serious attempt at governing.
The GOP’s latest attack on Planned Parenthood ostensibly stems from the release of a deceptively-edited smear video purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials engaging in illegal activity. The video was released by an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) which aimed to make it look like the Planned Parenthood officials were trying to profit from selling aborted fetuses illegally. The Times editorial board points out that the Planned Parenthood officials in the video were actually “discussing fetal tissue donation, which is legal and critical for medical research.”
Planned Parenthood has long been a favorite target of anti-choice activists. Of course, abortion is actually a very small part of what Planned Parenthood offers to its patients, and fetal tissue donation is an even smaller part, as the Times points out. Planned Parenthood is also barred from using federal funds for providing abortions already, so defunding the group would not do much to keep them providing that service. The federal funding that Planned Parenthood does receive is mainly used for providing health screenings, prenatal care, pregnancy tests, and contraception for low-income women (and men).
In other words, most of Planned Parenthood’s business is about reducing the number of abortions by providing low-cost contraception, and ensuring successful pregnancies through testing and prenatal care for women who might be unable to afford it otherwise. In all likelihood, defunding these programs would actually increase the total number of abortions in the United States since many low-income women would have a much more difficult time acquiring low-cost contraception and prenatal care without them.
That fact hasn’t kept the GOP’s attack on Planned Parenthood from spreading to the campaign trail though. GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina claimed on “Fox News Sunday” that the video released by CMP showed a living fetus being kept alive so that its brain could be harvested. Fiorina also made a similar claim in the most recent Republican presidential debate. The problem, of course, is that Fiorina’s claim is completely false. Even as deceptive as the CMP’s video was, it showed nothing close to what Fiorina claimed it did.
The Times editorial board also points to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s recent comment that Planned Parenthood is engaged in “the systematic murder of children in the womb” so that they can sell the body parts. As with Fiorina’s remarks, Christie’s were completely bogus.
Ultimately, the Times editorial board concluded that the GOP’s most recent attacks on Planned Parenthood are motivated by “denying women, especially poor women, the health care they need; pandering for primary votes among Tea Party regulars; and obstructing the budget process and the smooth functioning of government. Quite a record.”
Not exactly leadership America can believe in.